Welcome to the next piece in this series on the Elements as Altars. Here, we will focus on Fire as an altar in Witchcraft. In case you missed it, here’s the first one, which featured Air.
Fire As An Altar
The element of fire is a transformer, changing everything it touches. It consumes, but it also gives off light and heat in exchange. It cleanses as it burns and destroys. It takes the physical and changes it so that it can be appreciated by the spirits. Fire can only exist in the presence of air – and it requires the element of earth to feed upon as well.
As we previously discussed with using air as an altar, fire needs to be involved for burning incense and making smoke offerings – the two elements work in tandem for this kind of altar. Fire activates the process to begin with, but air finishes it, as we typically light a stick or cone of incense, then blow the flame out so it will smolder – making the focus on the interaction with air. With fire as an altar, the focus is more on the flame’s longevity and it’s ability to transform what is fed to it.
When we give things to the flames, they are forever changed – they are truly sacrificed. Food and libations cease being things we as humans can still consume, and instead become something only for the spirits. Other kinds of sacrifice include works of art such as carvings and drawings on paper, letters, photographs, things that are woven, baskets, pouches of herbs, and so forth.
We also use fire as an altar in spellcraft that requires burning to release, cleanse, banish, or break something down. Here what is burned is not an offering, but energy that is transformed by the flames in order to take effect. A broken contract can be reduced to ashes, a poppet of an abuser burn to dust, mixed with herbs and salts, then scattered far away from the victim – or threads burned to represent the breaking of a binding, harmful connection. All of these things – their power over us and meaning are altered by the altar of fire.
Fire Altar Chant:
Spirit of Fire, Dancing Flames
Bringer of Heat and Flickering Light
Transform this sacred offering
Through the power of your might!
To use fire as an altar takes extra care and precautions. Give fire an inch, it will burn a mile, so you want to be properly prepared and not act like a careless pyromaniac. If working indoors, be sure to use proper ventilation. If you have a hearth, fireplace, or wood-burning stove – make sure it’s clean and in working order. If you plan to use a cauldron or similar vessel, be sure to place it on a fire-proof surface, like stone or a tile. Cauldrons and other vessels should also have lids that you can seal them off with in a hurry, if you need to. Take care to make sure nothing above or close-by is prone to catch fire. Whether you’re working indoors or out, be sure to have water ready, just in case.
There’s a lot more information about using fire safely and effectively that I wrote about extensively in The Witch’s Cauldron. Want to read more about altars in Witchcraft? Check out The Witch’s Altar!